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Julia Carson
Carson julia.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 7th district
In office
January 3, 2003 – December 15, 2007
Preceded byBrian Kerns
Succeeded byAndré Carson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 10th district
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2003
Preceded byAndrew Jacobs Jr.
Succeeded byDistrict eliminated in reapportionment
Member of the Indiana State Senate
In office
Member of the Indiana House of Representatives
In office
Serving with William Crawford, John Day
Succeeded byJoseph W. Summers
Personal details
Born(1938-07-08)July 8, 1938
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedDecember 15, 2007(2007-12-15) (aged 69)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Resting placeCrown Hill Cemetery
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materIndiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Julia May Carson (July 8, 1938 – December 15, 2007), born Julia May Porter, was a member of the United States House of Representatives for Indiana's 7th congressional district from 1997 until her death in 2007 (numbered as the 10th District from 1997 to 2003).[1] Carson was the first woman and first African American to represent Indianapolis in the U.S. Congress. She was also the second African American woman elected to Congress from Indiana, after Katie Hall, and her grandson André Carson succeeded to her seat.

Early life, education and family life

Carson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother, Velma V. Porter, unmarried and a teenager, moved to Indianapolis while Julia was still a girl and worked as a domestic to support her family. Julia also worked part-time, waiting tables, delivering newspapers, and harvesting crops, among other jobs to support her family before graduating from Crispus Attucks High School in 1955,[2] as well as while attending Martin University in Indianapolis and Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. She was a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. She also married after graduation, and had two children, Sam and Tonya, but divorced Carson while the children were still young.[3]


In 1965, while a single mother and working as a secretary at UAW Local 550, Carson was hired away by newly elected congressman Andrew Jacobs Jr., a Democrat, to do casework in his Indianapolis office. When his own electoral prospects looked dim in 1972 (which turned out to be a Republican landslide), Jacobs encouraged Carson to run for the Indiana House of Representatives, which she did. She won election from the central Indianapolis district in 1972, and re-election. She served as a delegate for four years and rose to become assistant minority caucus chair. The legislature being a part-time position, Carson also worked as the human resources director at an electric company from 1973 to 1996.[4] She also once operated a clothing store, which failed and saddled her with debt for several years.[5]

In 1976, at the urging of fellow Democrats, Carson arranged for prominent local businessman and fellow Democrat Joseph W. Summers to run for her house seat, as she successfully ran for the Indiana Senate. She won re-election and ultimately served in the Indiana Senate for 14 years, sitting on its finance committee and eventually holding the minority whip position before retiring in 1990.[6] Carson and Katie Hall (a fellow Democrat but from Lake County who also won election that year) became the first African American women to win election to the Indiana Senate; the first African American to sit in that body had been Virginia-born civil rights attorney Robert Lee Brokenburr, a Republican who had died in 1974 and who represented part of Marion County for most of the period 1941-1964.[7]

In 1990 Carson won election as the Trustee for Center Township (downtown Indianapolis), seemingly a step down from her legislative post, but with a considerable budget and administrative responsibilities. Carson assumed responsibility for running welfare in central Indianapolis, and instituted a workfare program.[8] During Carson's six years as the Center Township Trustee, she created a $6 million surplus and erased the office's $20 million debt.[9] The County's auditor (a Republican) noted Carson “wrestled that monster to the ground”[10] Jacobs proclaimed Carson "not only took cheats off the welfare rolls, she sued them to get the money" and when Jacobs retired in 1996, Carson ran as his replacement in what was then the 10th Congressional District, and won the Democratic Party's endorsement, 49 percent to 31 percent, despite being heavily outspent in the primary by party chairman Ann DeLaney.

In the general election Carson faced Republican Virginia Murphy Blankenbaker, a state senator and stockbroker who, like Carson, was a grandmother with liberal views on abortion and the death penalty. Although the district was 68% white and conservative-leaning, each raised similar sums of money, but Carson won, with 53 percent of the vote versus 45 percent for Blankenbaker. Soon thereafter, Carson underwent double heart bypass surgery on January 4, 1997, which years later produced complications. Carson was sworn in to office from her hospital bed on January 9, 1997, and could not travel to Washington, D.C. until early March.[11]

House record

Carson won re-election numerous times, although redistricting added 100,000 people, many of them Republicans, to her district. She focused on issues that affected working–class Americans, many of which she personally experienced, as well as on constituent service. She won re-election rather handily during the next four elections, although some criticized her for being somewhat unpredictable, particularly votes for anti-terrorism bills and normal trade relations with China. Carson was one of the last representatives to support trade normalization with China in 2000 (because of its human rights record), and opposed the Iraq War resolution in 2002.

During the 105th Congress (1997–1999), Carson received posts on the Banking and Financial Services Committee (later renamed Financial Services) and the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and continued in those positions during the 106th and 107th Congresses. The Roudebush VA Medical Center was in her district, and she often visited recuperating veterans, as well as could identify with many of their health problems. In the 108th Congress (2003–2005), Carson left Veterans' Affairs to accept an assignment on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Amtrak's largest repair facility was near Indianapolis, and she would sponsor Amtrak's largest reauthorization bill in 2005. Carson helped create the Indiana Mortgage and Foreclosure Hotline to counsel homeowners and potential buyers about the mortgage process, noting that although Indiana had one of the country's highest homeownership rates in 2001, it experienced a record number of foreclosures in 2004. She also regularly sponsored children's safety, health, and nutrition legislation, including comprehensive gun safety legislation (protecting children by requiring safety locks on handguns) in 1999.[12]

Carson's legislative record included leading Congress to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999, and in 2005 allowing the civil rights icon to become the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capital Rotunda.[13] Carson also cosponsored, with (Republican) Sen. Richard Lugar, the removal of bureaucratic bottlenecks on child health insurance; and commemorating author Kurt Vonnegut (H.RES.324[14]). Other Congressional accomplishments included critical funding to revitalize Indianapolis's Fall Creek Neighborhood (which today includes some of the finest examples of reclaimed urban landscape in the U.S.). Carson also supported the new terminal for the Indianapolis International Airport, which opened November 12, 2008. She was the first recipient of the Frank O'Bannon Award from Indiana Stonewall Democrats. Carson also co-sponsored the Equal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and was a member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Equality Caucus in the U.S. House led by U.S. Representative Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts.

Carson won reelection with little difficulty in 1998 and 2000. Her 2000 campaign attracted a personal appearance by President Bill Clinton that drew thousands to the Indiana State Fairgrounds. In 2003, Carson helped win $11 million in federal funding for transportation initiatives in Indianapolis, including highway expansion, street improvements, and improved public transportation. In 2005, Carson sponsored the $40 billion Amtrak re–authorization bill (the National Defense Rail Act), which provided for new rail lines including high–speed rail corridors. In 2006, Carson traveled from Washington, D.C. to Indianapolis aboard Air Force One with President George W. Bush to appear at the Indiana Black Expo.

Her health (including asthma, hypertension and diabetes) became an issue in tighter-than-expected races beginning in 2002. After Indiana lost a Congressional district following the 2000 census, her district was renumbered as the 7th District and included slightly more registered Republicans than its predecessor. In a heated campaign that led to Carson leaving the stage in protest in the final pre-election debate with Republican public affairs specialist Brose McVey, she won re-election 53 percent to 44 percent. Carson won re-election by about 11 points in 2004, defeating Republican Andrew Horning and Libertarian Barry Campbell.

Carson defeated Eric Dickerson in the 2006 election 54 percent to 46 percent, a narrow 8-point margin in a year when most incumbent Democrats skated to victory.[15] In the same election, Democratic challengers toppled Republican incumbents in three Indiana districts much more conservative than Carson's. Carson was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was one of the 31 who voted in the House not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.[16]

Illness and death

On September 29, 2007, the Indianapolis Star reported that Carson had been an in-patient at Indianapolis's Methodist Hospital for the preceding eight days.[17] She was being treated for an infection in her leg near the area where a vein was removed in 1996 during double bypass heart surgery. Year-to-date, Carson had participated in 87 percent of the House votes, but had missed 42 of 77 votes during the month. Carson had battled lung cancer before, but it had gone into remission before being re-diagnosed during the leg vein treatment, as the Star announced on November 25, 2007.[9] Her friend, former U.S. Representative Andy Jacobs, announced Carson's death on December 15, 2007.[18]

On December 21, 2007 Julia Carson's casket was taken to the Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis by horse-drawn military caisson. She became the ninth Hoosier to lie in repose at the Statehouse Rotunda. An early-morning service was held in the statehouse, with remarks by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Carson's grandson, City-County Councilman André Carson.[19] Thousands of Hoosiers paid last respects, visiting the casket and attending an evening ceremony in the Statehouse. Celebrants included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson (D), former U.S. Representative Andrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind.), U.S. Representative Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), U.S. Representative Baron Hill (D-Ind.), U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), U.S. Representative Diane Watson (D-Calif.) and former Gary, Indiana mayor Richard Hatcher. Gary, Indiana mayor Rudy Clay presented a key to the city to the Carson family.

Although Carson was a lifelong member of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis, her funeral was at Eastern Star Baptist Church so thousands could attend directly or by live television broadcast on December 22, 2007.[20] Speakers at included Governor Daniels (R), both U.S. Senator Richard Lugar ( R-Ind.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), U.S. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), Indiana House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), Indianapolis Mayor Peterson, radio host and Hoosier native Tavis Smiley, and Minister Louis Farrakhan. Carson was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis; the graveside ceremony included a three-volley salute.[21]


During her life, Carson was named the Indianapolis Star Woman of the Year in 1974 and 1991, and was inducted into the Indiana Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2006. A commemorative bust honoring her was unveiled in the Indiana statehouse in 2014,[22] and she was also remembered during Indiana's celebration of Women's History month in 2015.[23] Indianapolis named its local government center to honor Carson in 1997 and its transit center to honor her in 2016. Ivy Tech Community College named its new library and community space in Indianapolis to honor Carson in 2011.[24] Julia Carson's papers are held in the library of Indiana University in Indianapolis.[25] Indianapolis also wants to award landmark status to her former home.[26]

A special election was held on March 11, 2008 to determine Carson's replacement in Congress.[27] Although he had won his first elective office (as an Indianapolis city councilman) only weeks before Carson's death, her grandson André Carson won the election, defeating Republican state representative Jon Elrod and Libertarian Sean Shepard. Andre Carson also won the May 2008 Democratic Primary for Congress against six opponents. U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) had endorsed Carson before his primary victory.

Committees and subcommittees

Group ratings (109th Congress)

(January 2005 – January 2007)

Electoral history

Indiana's 10th congressional district: Results 1996–2000[28]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 Julia Carson 85,965 53% Virginia Murphy Blankenbaker 72,796 45% Kurt St. Angelo Libertarian 3,605 2% *
1998 Julia Carson 69,682 58% Gary A. Hofmeister 47,017 39% Fred C. Peterson Libertarian 2,719 2% *
2000 Julia Carson 91,689 59% Marvin B. Scott 62,233 40% Na’Ilah Ali Libertarian 2,780 2%
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1996, write-ins received 7 votes. In 1998, Wayne J. Wohlfert received 18 votes.
Indiana's 7th congressional district: Results 2002–2006[28]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2002 Julia Carson 77,478 53% Brose A. McVey 64,379 44% Andrew M. Horning Libertarian 3,919 3% *
2004 Julia Carson 121,303 54% Andrew Horning 97,491 44% Barry Campbell Libertarian 4,381 2%
2006 Julia Carson 74,750 54% Eric Dickerson 64,304 46%
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2002, James (Jim) Kell Jeffries received 64 votes.

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House bio
  2. ^ Schneider, Rob (December 16, 2007). "Carson remembered: Congresswoman gave voice to disadvantaged". Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on December 19, 2007. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  3. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House bio
  4. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House bio
  5. ^
  6. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House site
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b "Congresswoman has terminal cancer". CNN. November 25, 2007.
  10. ^ “Julia Carson,” Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 23 (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1999) as cited in U.S. House bio
  11. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House bio
  12. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House bio
  13. ^ U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson, U.S. House bio
  14. ^ "Honoring the life and accomplishments of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and extending the condolences of the House of Representatives to his family on the occasion of his death. (Introduced in House)". Retrieved July 26, 2009.
  15. ^ "Indiana General Election November 7, 2007". Secretary of State of Indiana. November 6, 2007.
  16. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 7". Office of the Clerk. January 6, 2005.
  17. ^ Maureen Groppe (September 29, 2007). "Carson hospitalized with leg infection". The Indianapolis Star.
  18. ^ Schneider, Mary Beth. Congresswoman Julia Carson dies, Indianapolis Star, December 15, 2007. Accessed 2007-12-15.[dead link]
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 20, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^
  21. ^ Julia Carson at Find a Grave
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Executive Order 08-01 Archived February 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Mitch Daniels. January 7, 2008.
  28. ^ a b "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on July 25, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2008.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Andrew Jacobs Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 10th congressional district

January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2003
District eliminated in reapportionment
Preceded by
Brian Kerns
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 7th congressional district

January 3, 2003 – December 15, 2007
Succeeded by
André Carson
This page was last edited on 6 October 2019, at 16:38
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